Grilled Teriyaki Chicken

May 20, 2020

Nothing beats grilled teriyaki chicken as a classic backyard BBQ dish the whole family will love. This recipe includes a homemade teriyaki marinade and sauce that tastes delicious with a little kiss of char from the grill. 

Sliced grilled teriyaki chicken thighs topped with teriyaki sauce and sesame seeds. Plated on a wood board alongside a pile of white rice.

Grilled Teriyaki Chicken

Teriyaki chicken is a staple in most Asian AND Hawaiian restaurants here in the USA, and for good reason. The flavors are almost universally well liked for adults and kids of all ages. The flavors in the marinade and sauce are the perfect balance of sweet and savory with great aromatic notes like ginger and garlic. Add in the kiss of caramelized char from the grill and you’ll end up with deliciously juicy chicken that will please a crowd.

What Cuts of Chicken Works Best?

I recommend boneless, skinless chicken thighs for grilled teriyaki chicken. They are incredibly affordable, have a little more fat (which means more flavor and moisture) than breasts, and there is plenty of surface area for the chicken to be seasoned by the marinade. Chicken thighs also grill up quicker than other cuts, which means I spend less time babysitting the fire and more time enjoying my meal.

If you don’t love chicken thighs, breasts are always an option! I do recommend splitting the breasts or using a meat mallet to pound them to a more even thickness. This will give more of your chicken access to the flavorful marinade. If you want to grill up bone-in chicken cuts (like grilled chicken legs or grilled chicken wings), I recommend seasoning them simply and basting with my homemade teriyaki BBQ sauce. Bone-in cuts typically take longer to cook, the marinades don’t penetrate the skin as well, and you risk burning the sugars in this marinade on the grill before the chicken is cooked through.

Boneless, skinless chicken thighs sumberged in teriyaki marinade inside of a gallon sized plastic bag

Grilled Teriyaki Chicken Marinade and Sauce

This marinade does double duty as both the base flavor for the chicken AND the teriyaki sauce used to baste the chicken during the grilling process. Using a marinade as a sauce does require an additional cooking step to ensure no cross-contamination, so after gathering the ingredients, make sure you follow the recipe to keep everything food-safe!

Here’s what you need to make this grilled teriyaki chicken marinade:

  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup water (or pineapple juice if you like a fruitier and slightly sweeter teriyaki sauce)
  • 1/2 cup pineapple chunks (from the can only, fresh pineapple has an enzyme that will make your chicken mushy)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 Tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon grated ginger
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil

Blue colored basting brush, basting teriyaki sauce onto a chicken thigh on a grill

How to Cook Teriyaki Chicken on the Grill

Here are the steps for grilled teriyaki chicken with a few additional notes and insights to help your chicken turn out perfectly.

  1. Start marinating. Combine all ingredients for the marinade (yes, even the pineapple chunks) in a gallon sized zip top bag, mix well and add in the chicken thighs. Next, refrigerate the chicken in the marinade for at least 4 hours. I usually shoot for 8 hours, but you can go up to 24 hours with no problems.
  2. Grill the chicken. You are going to be using 2-zones of heat (high heat and low heat) if you are using a gas or charcoal grill. If using a pellet smoker, preheat to 375 degrees F. I prefer cooking these chicken thighs over charcoal. Take the chicken out of the marinade and SAVE the marinade!! Start grilling your chicken thighs on the low heat side of the grill, close the lid, and cook for 5-7 minutes per side, or until the internal temperature of the chicken reads 145 degrees F.
  3. Make the teriyaki sauce. While the chicken grills, make the sauce. You can do this in a pan or cast iron skillet on the direct heat side of your grill while your chicken is on the indirect side. Pour the marinade into the pan and bring to a boil to kill any bacteria remaining from marinating. Adding in a cornstarch slurry thickens the sauce. Pour about ½ cup of sauce into a separate bowl for basting. Set aside the rest of the sauce for serving with the chicken.
  4. Baste the chicken. Brush the chicken thighs with the ½ cup of reserved teriyaki sauce. Move the thighs over to the high heat side of the grill and cook, flipping and basting once more, until the sauce has caramelized on the outside of the thighs and the internal temperature reads 170-175 degrees F using an instant read internal thermometer.
  5. Serve and enjoy! Finally, remove the chicken from the grill to a serving platter. Allow it to rest for 10 minutes before slicing. Serve with the reserved teriyaki sauce and a sprinkle of sesame seeds (optional).

5 teriyaki chicken thighs on grill grates with hot charcoal directly underneath

More Island Inspired Recipes

If you love teriyaki chicken, chances are you’ll love these other delicious island inspired recipes. Check them out: 

Smoked Kalua Pork

Teriyaki BBQ Sauce

Grilled Pineapple

Grilled Hawaiian Teriyaki Burgers

Teriyaki Beef Jerky

Grilled Teriyaki Chicken Recipe

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Sliced teriyaki chicken arranged on a wood cutting board and topped with teriyaki sauce.

Grilled Teriyaki Chicken

Prep Time : 15 mins
Cook Time : 20 mins
Marinade Time : 4 hrs
Total Time : 4 hrs 45 mins
Servings : 6
Calories : 311kcal

Ingredients
 

  • 6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs

Marinade

  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • ¾ cup soy sauce
  • ½ cup water ((or pineapple juice))
  • ½ cup canned pineapple chunks
  • 2 cloves garlic (minced)
  • 2 Tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon grated ginger
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil

Sauce

  • 2 Tablespoons corn starch
  • 2 Tablespoons cool water

Instructions

  • Marinate the chicken thighs. Combine all ingredients for the marinade in a gallon sized zip top bag and mix well to combine. Place all chicken thighs in the bag, remove as much air as possible, and seal tightly. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or up to 8 hours.
  • Grill the chicken. Preheat your grill to 375 degrees F with 2-zones of heat (high heat and low heat). Remove the chicken thighs from the marinade and set the marinade aside. Place the chicken thighs on the low heat side of the grill, close the lid, and cook for 5-7 minutes each side, or until the internal temperature of the chicken reads 145 degrees F.
  • Make the teriyaki sauce. While the chicken grills, preheat a medium saucepan over medium high heat. Pour the marinade into the saucepan and bring to a boil. In a small pan, combine the cornstarch and cool water, mixing until there are no chunks of cornstarch left. Pour the cornstarch mixture into the boiling sauce, while whisking. Remove the thickened sauce from the heat and pour about ½ cup of sauce into a separate bowl. Set aside the rest of the sauce for serving with the chicken.
  • Sauce the chicken. Baste each of the chicken thighs with the ½ cup of reserved teriyaki sauce. Move the thighs over to the high heat side of the grill and cook, flipping and basting once more, until the sauce has caramelized on the outside of the thighs and the internal temperature reads 170-175 degrees F.
  • Rest and serve. Remove the chicken from the grill to a serving platter and allow it to rest for 10 minutes before slicing and serving with reserved teriyaki sauce.

Nutrition

Calories: 311kcal | Carbohydrates: 42g | Protein: 22g | Fat: 6g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 107mg | Sodium: 113mg | Potassium: 350mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 38g | Vitamin A: 37IU | Vitamin C: 2mg | Calcium: 46mg | Iron: 1mg
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